Three Tips for Struggling Independent Medical Practices

December 16, 2014

They say that the first year of any new business is the toughest, and we can second that. Here are three lessons we learned that can benefit medical practices.

Like many ideas, our consulting company wasn’t founded in a garage, but on a napkin. It was the blueprint of a consultancy that would focus on small practices: house-call practices. At that time, we were all executives with a national house-call group and the thought of leaving to start our own company was both thrilling and daunting.

There was considerable risk involved as private practices, and house-call practices specifically, are a small and highly volatile sector of healthcare. But here we stand, one year later, proving that sometimes the risk is worth the reward.

They say that the first year of any new business is the toughest, and we can second that. But the challenges we faced are not unique to our company. In fact, we believe that many independent practices might benefit from hearing about some of the challenges we faced, and some of the lessons we learned along the way. For our one-year anniversary, we've decided to share three of our biggest lessons. We hope they can benefit your practice in some way:

1. Stay flexible. While we originally set out to only serve the house-call market, we started getting inquiries from urgent-care centers, traditional family practice groups, and health. If we elected to work with them, were we losing our focus on the original mission? If we diversified, would we lose our identity as a unique consultancy? Ultimately, we made the decision to diversify and not only have we kept our unique identity, but our non-house call clients have created opportunities for our house-call clients.

Many practices stick to the traditional way of getting patient referrals such as brochures, events, word of mouth, and being part of a hospital. Those are fine methods but with the growing number of individuals who are getting insured that might not be enough to get ahead. One area to look at is sites that provide online appointment bookings through a third-party site. Many times when patients are looking to be seen by a physician they want an appointment that day or the next day. This is a great way to gain patients with little work of actual marketing. So, remember don't be stuck in your ways. Embrace technology.

2. Admit when something’s not working. This can be a tough subject, especially for small practices. We understand the pride in building something from nothing, but not every idea works out the way we hope it will. It could be something as small as changing your patient management software or as large as terminating a long-term employee who is no longer productive. We’ve been there ourselves, recently re-designing our website based on feedback we received from clients and potential clients. It doesn’t mean you failed, it just means it could be done better. We’ve also learned a lot from our clients on what they need, what their concerns are, and what we can invest in to better help them.

3. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. This isn’t a reminder to watch "The Shining." This is a reminder to take the occasional moment and have some fun. Your staff will appreciate it, and your turnover rates will decrease. We do it ourselves. We’ve organized a movie club, trivia nights, and other activities that allow us to unwind and come in the next day refreshed.